Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dissenters get arrested for speaking to Santa Cruz City Council

Human Rights abuse in itty-bitty Santa Cruz [link]

"Targeting the Homeless as a "Prosperity Initiative" in Santa Cruz"
2014-02-08 by Robert Norse of Santa Cruz: 
               Santa Cruz's Downtown Association has long floated a series of failed bigoted measures to starve out or drive away peaceful panhandlers and unhoused "loiterers" ranging from "Give a Hand Not a Handout" posters in 1989 to the recent red "Imagine" meters--which discourage giving to the visibly needy in favor of those arranging to remove them from sight.  In 1994 then Councilmember, now Supervisor, Neal Coonerty pushed for the Sitting Ban, Tabling Ban, Spare-changing Ban, and Performing Ban ordinances--which banned these activities in most times and places on Pacific Avenue--engineering a huge commercial takeover of what once been a shared space.  (Even a friendly space before the 1989 earthquake where there were dozens of places to sit on the waist-high brick planters that lined Pacific). 
               Subsequent laws and police practices have intensified the "no go" zones while attacking homeless camps directly through "clean 'em out" sweeps that simply drive homeless people deeper into the greenbelt or the residential neighborhoods (and also accomplishing its purpose of driving someout of town in despair or disgust.  In effect these measures are a massive shameful attack on what is fundamentally a disabled population--though as of yet there has been no legal response to what is probably illegal under federal disability law. 
               More recently HUFF has received reports of cafe owners not only driving homeless people out and excluding them for "having backpacks" (Coffee Roasting Company, Starbucks, Peet's, Abbey Cafe)  but actually threatening them on adjacent sidewalk (Peet's, Cafe Pergolesi). 
               Even discussing these issues in the tiny amount of time allowed the public at the twice-monthly City Council meetings under Mayor "Rattlesnake" Robinson (who gives little warning) faces increased threat with her upcoming expansion of "decorum" rules this Tuesday ( shortly after 2:30 PM February 11).  The "rules" formally eliminate the Oral Communications period historically held at 7 PM in the evening (when it was actually available for most workers--rather than at its current 5 PM "doghouse" time--when most of the audience has either left or not arrived).   The highly-restrictive Consent Agenda rules have been set in cement disallowing members of the public the opportunity to speak on the items individually.   A provision attacking independent journalists reads "No audio/visual recording devices may be left unattended at the speaker’s lectern or elsewhere in the Council Chambers."               
                 The provision that prompted an 11-year court battle and cost the City $125,000+ in the mock-Nazi salute case has been made worse instead of corrected.  It now reads: " ... Any person making personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks, or becoming boisterous or otherwise disrupting the Council meeting shall be barred by the presiding officer from further attendance at said meeting unless permission for continued attendance is granted by a majority vote of the Council... Every member of the public and every Councilmember desiring to speak shall address the presiding officer, and upon recognition by the presiding officer, shall confine comments to the question under debate, avoiding all indecorous language and references to personalities ... Upon instructions of the presiding officer it shall be the duty of the sergeant-at-arms or any police officer present to eject from the Council Chambers any person in the audience who uses boisterous or profane language, or language tending to bring the Council or any Councilmember into contempt..." 
                   A new sentence has been added:   "Persons who disrupt a Council meeting while in session are subject to arrest and prosecution."    In other words, rein in your criticism of the Council, the cops, and bigots in the community who are harassing homeless people either under color of law or otherwise.  Don't name names, use tame language, make sure what you're saying is decorous, even if the abusive behavior you're describing (stealing homeless property, arresting people for sleeping or sitting) is not.

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